If there is one thing that has shed a less than favourable light on the fashion industry in recent years, it is how notoriously wasteful business practices in the industry can be. According to Geneva Environment Network, the fashion industry is responsible for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions. This is more than the total produced by international flights and shipping combined. However, in the last decade, many have worked on implementing new business strategies to ensure sustainability. This means taking a stance to create a positive impact on the environment, and by doing so, improving brand reputation. A major contributing factor to the increase of sustainable fashion brands is the surge in demand from consumers for environmentally friendly apparel. Furthermore, having sustainable business practices can also benefit fashion companies by helping them save costs in the long run, according to Forbes.
Working towards becoming more sustainable can aid in the efforts towards tackling the climate crisis, and meeting the needs of their eco-conscious Millennial and Generation Z customer base. To the relief of climate conscious consumers, many companies, including e-commerce platforms, have already made monumental changes in their efforts to be more sustainable. These changes include the use of sustainable logistics, transportation, packing and more.
Read on to find out how you can follow suit to implement sustainable changes for your fashion business now.
A huge contributor to waste in fashion is packaging. Part of working towards mitigating environmental impact would be brands adopting the use of sustainable packaging. Most of the garments we purchase are actually packaged several times over during the distribution process before it reaches us – each time seeing variants of single-use packaging, which undeniably ends up as waste in landfills and incinerators.
So what is sustainable packaging and how does it help? It involves the use of recyclable packaging, using fewer plastic labels, boxes and bags, reducing single-use plastics in the packaging and incorporating sustainably sourced materials. Sustainable packaging is complex and there is no one-fits-all industry-standard solution. But of course, we can all start somewhere. The best place to start would be to make a commitment to stop using virgin packaging and single-use plastics for your parcels. Instead, choose eco-friendly compostable packaging that is made from plant-based or fossil fuel materials and can break down at the end of its lifespan, providing the earth with useful nutrients.
The process of dyeing fabric, in particular, demands high energy when heating large volumes of water. To reduce energy consumption, companies such as DyeCoo are developing water-less dye processes. This process uses less water and reclaimed carbon dioxide. In combination, they create a highly pressurised environment for dyes to dissolve and attach to textile fibre without consuming as much energy as traditional methods. Advancements in molecular biology are also paving the way for environmentally sustainable alternatives for textile processes and ‘styling’ such as scouring, bleach clean-up, abrasion and polishing.
The streamlining of production processes, through improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 3D printing, can also help to effectively reduce wastage such as leftover fabric.
Fabric choice directly affects the raw material sourcing (farming and petroleum drilling impact), material processing (chemicals needed to turn it into fibre), and end-of-life prospects (ways a garment can be disposed of or recycled) of a piece of clothing. On top of that, materials that make up fabric can also contribute to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, rainforest destruction, and landfill waste.
Embracing sustainable and ethical fashion starts with the fabric. The good news is that environmentally friendly materials are easy to procure. In fact, according to an article by Dezeen, renowned fashion brands Paul Smith and Hugo Boss have both released sneakers that used Piñatex a material made from the leaves of pineapples grown in the Philippines in their efforts to be more sustainable. The production of shoes with Piñatex is also much more sustainable than traditional leather and is also free of animal cruelty.
Choosing to implement sustainable farming methods can also reduce the environmental impact of materials such as wool and cotton. Good practices include enforcing frequent crop rotation and ensuring that local biodiversity is used to keep the land fertile. This will greatly reduce water and energy use as well.
Creating a sustainable strategy for fashion brands cannot be narrowed down to a single initiative. Your strategy towards sustainability should consist of many different fluid facets which work together to create fashion products with methods that are considerate of humanity and the environment, reducing the environmental impact wherever possible.
Embark on your journey to move your brand towards sustainable business practices today.